Scouts learn what Real Archaeology is

Submitted by David Chamness

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Boy Scouts from Troop 125 in Holly Springs, Georgia performed some real life science by helping William Phillips, an Eagle Scout from Troop 11 of Gainesville, Georgia in early May 2010.

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Under the supervision of Dr. Jack Wynn, an archaeologist from North Georgia College and State University, the boys visited a site in Hall County, Georgia that Mr. Phillips has long suspected was a center of Native American activity in the past.

Mr. Phillips, who is currently studying to be an archaeologist himself, is working with Dr. Wynn and the Society for Georgia Archaeology to document the site. They had already done a site survey and performed a preliminary shovel test, which proved that there was some activity in the field, but he needed much more data. They needed more shovel tests to determine exactly how extensive the site was, and where the best place would be to locate a larger dig site.

Thirteen boys and seven adult Scouters met with Dr. Wynn, Mr. Phillips and four SGA volunteers in the early morning hours with shovels, sharpened wooden stakes and survey tape. Since the field had already been surveyed, we began by using the tape measures and stakes to precisely measure out and mark the locations of the new test holes. Once the locations were marked, the scouts broke up into four teams, each with several scouts, a parent or two, and an adult archaeologist.

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The boys cleared away the kudzu in a six foot circle before beginning to dig. While the experienced archaeologists looked on, one scout would lift a shovel-full of dirt into a screen, where another scout would agitate the dirt and sometimes use gloved hands to break up the clumps. The sifted dirt fell through the screen, while roots, stones and artifacts stayed behind.

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It wasn’t very long before the excited voice of one scout rang out “We found a sherd!” About ten centimeters down in the first test hole, the scout had uncovered a small piece of pottery that had lain underground for somewhere around 1600 years.

After carefully marking the location of the first find on the survey form, the scout carried the pot fragment around to show everyone working at the site what it was he had found.

Once everyone had seen the artifact, he placed it in an awaiting paper bag that had been prepared and marked with the location of the test hole and the depth at which the artifact had been found.

Before too long, another group of boys had found something, also. In no time, all four groups were huddled over their respective screens, pulling pot sherds (or sometimes just rocks) out and placing them in the specimen bags.

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At the end of the day, dozens of pottery fragments had been found, along with a few ground stone artifacts. The artifacts all had to be cleaned and categorized, which was done at a nearby farmhouse. The boys learned that science isn’t always done the way it appears to be in the movies, but finding bits and pieces of the ancient past can be just as exciting. The data collected will be used as part of the research Mr. Phillips is conducting and Mr. Phillips plans to publish it in the SGA journal Early Georgia when it is completed.